Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan on Sunday urged Senate and House lawmakers to prioritize the passage of the proposed third stimulus package that would help spur the country’s economic recovery from the damage brought about by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic when Congress resumes sessions on May 17.
Pangilinan said lawmakers are in agreement for the need to immediately start the debates on the proposed “Bayanihan 3” or the Bayanihan to Rebuild as One Act, which was filed by Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto last December 2020.
Recto’s version of the bill seeks a P485-billion additional funding to help the economy recover from the pandemic, but does not contain the grant of special powers to the President, unlike the first and second rounds of stimulus or the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act (Bayanihan 1) and Bayanihan to Recover as One Act (Bayanihan 2).
In the House of Representatives, House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco and Marikina Rep. Stella Luz Quimbo filed a counterpart measure.
“Gusto kong tutukan talaga itong stimulus package na ito—Bayanihan 3. Dahil kung hirap tayo noong 2020, mas hirap ngayon (I really want us to focus on this stimulus package—the Bayanihan 3. Because if it was difficult in 2020, I believe it is much difficult this year),” Pangilinan said in an interview over Radio DZRH.
“Noon may naitabi pang kaunting karampot na ipon. Ngayon ubos na lahat, pero mas matindi ang COVID, at ang pagkalat nito (Last year we have a little savings left. But now, it’s been depleted. But we are facing a much deadlier COVID variant),” he lamented.
Pangilinan noted both the Senate and House of Representatives only have three weeks to spare to finish the deliberations.
“What we did last year was pass it on second reading, or either we hold a special session or resume deliberations in August. But I hope we can pass this much earlier,” he also said.
Pangilinan, likewise, said lawmakers should exercise congressional oversight and conduct a special audit of the funds under the Bayanihan 1 and 2.
“We need to ask why was there overpricing on the test kits, testing laboratories, personal protective equipment (PPEs). So we need to check on these things. Including the cash assistance program, where some claim those in the list were already dead, and while it was announced that P1,000 would be given, the others reportedly claimed having received only P500,” the senator explained in Filipino.
“That’s precisely why, when we debate on Bayanihan 3, we need an accounting and know what is the status of the funds under Bayanihan 1 and Bayanihan 2.
“Kung hindi, tuloy-tuloy ang hirap, tuloy-tuloy ang gutom. Kaya sumusulpot itong mga community pantry, kaliwa’t kanan at sila na mismo ang gumagawa ng paraan (If not, the problems and the hunger will just continue. That’s the reason why these community pantries are sprouting left and right, because people are forced to do something to help themselves),” he said.